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Morchain, Janet Kerr.

Rev. ed. Markham (Ont.), Fitzhenry & Whiteside, c1984. 198pp, paper, $8.95, ISBN 0-88902-633-5. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Robert Nicholas Bérard

Volume 14 Number 5
1986 September

The history of Canada cannot be understood without reference to three continuing themes: the regional character of our society; our proximity to and dependence upon, and struggle to remain distinct from the United States; and the stormy, shifting relations between the two so-called founding peoples, English and French-speaking Canadians. Courses and textbooks in Canadian history that fail to pay adequate attention to these three perennial themes often descend to the mere chronicling of a series of confusing and seemingly contradictory events.

Teachers of Canadian history have been fortunate to have had access to two important teaching aids by Janet Morchain of Ottawa's Lisgar Collegiate Institute with which they can supplement less than adequate texts. In 1967 Dr. Morchain's Search for a Nation first appeared, and in 1973 she authored a less satisfactory, but useful source-book, Sharing a Continent (McGraw-Hill Ryerson), which explored the history of Canadian-American relations. The volume under review is a revised edition of her 1967 examination of Canada's French-English duality (which had been produced under the general editorship of the late Mason Wade) that aims to bring students up to date with the most recent episode in the on-going drama of that duality through the addition of a new section on "The Crisis of Separatism."

The book is divided into two parts; the first a series of essays on the nature of nationhood and nationalism generally and the major instances of French-English conflict in Canada since the Conquest of 1759, and the second a corresponding series of chapters containing a variety of excerpts from primary and secondary sources relating to the several crises analyzed in the first part of the book. As an aside, it may be noted that an unusually large number of books about this relatively placid and harmonious country contain the word "crisis" in their titles. A useful, but very limited, bibliography is also included, although few entries date from after 1967. The topics covered include, in addition to the Conquest and the issue of separatism from 1970 lo 1980: the rebellions of 1837; Confederation; the Riel rebellion; Laurier's search for a middle way between British-Canadian imperialist and French-Canadian nationalist sentiment; the conscription crises of the two world wars; and Quebec's Quiet Revolution.

The historical core of the book is practically unchanged from the 1967 edition. Work on the Conquest, Confederation, and conscription done by scholars since that time has not found its way into either the documents or Morchain's essays. Her introductory chapter has been recast, and new sources expressing French-Canadian interpretations of the problem of nationhood have been added. The chapter on the Quiet Revolution, written in the present tense in the first edition, has been amended to reflect the passage of time and to include the passage and implementation of the Official Languages Act. Morchain's analysis of the "crisis of separatism" takes the story to the defeat of the referendum on sovereignty-association in May 1980. and the corresponding selection of documents highlights the arguments made by both sides in the referendum campaign.

In general, the issues are handled in a balanced and reasoned manner. However, the author's disdain for Quebecois nationalism, and her enthusiasm for the idea of Canada and the means to achieve it embodied in the careers of Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien are manifest in her analysis and document selection. No mention is made of the imposition of the new Constitution on a reluctant Quebec by the federal government and the nine English-speaking provinces. Morchain also perpetuates the myth of unrelieved and unrivalled corruption and backwardness in the Quebec of Maurice Duplessis, failing to take account of the important work of Robert Rumilly and Conrad Black on "le Chef."

Many of the topics considered in this volume are analyzed more deeply and with more sophisticated documentary evidence in the important new problem book, Emerging Identities, by Paul W. Bennett and Cornelius Jaenen (Prentice-Hall. 1986). On the other hand, the author has made clear the important links among a number of critical events in the history of Canada and has produced an important companion to any general narrative text. The analysis and document selection are well-suited to secondary-school readers, although French songs and poems among the sources are not translated. It is to be hoped that Morchain will produce a revision of Sharing a Continent and perhaps turn her considerable talent to the question of regional diversity in the history of Canada.

Robert Nicholas Bérard, Dept. of Education, Dalhousie University, Halifax. N.S.
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